Decrease in homicides in 2017

Evidence markers at crime scene
Chief Robert Helton
Chief Robert Helton

Homicides have decreased in Gastonia by 50 percent, from 8 in 2016 to 4 in 2017. Gastonia Police Chief Robert Helton answered questions in January about the decrease and said, “We are fortunate and blessed!” Although it isn’t always easy to put a finger on why crime rates increase or decrease from year to year, Chief Helton shared these points.

  • Officers & community members always work together to make our city as safe as possible. Police staffing issues improved in 2017 and there were more street-level initiatives.
  • Major multi-jurisdictional investigations have helped, such as the 83 violent offenders taken off the street in May through a coordinated operation led by the Department of Justice’s U.S. Attorney’s Western District Office.
  • A lot of our aggravated assaults are domestic and hard to prevent because they are inside homes. But increased education, like what we provide through our Victim-Witness advocacy program, gives people more knowledge so they can remove themselves from situations where they could end up being the victim of a more violent crime. A grant was received from the Community Foundation of Gaston County in October to increase training for GPD’s Victim-Witness advocacy program.
  • GPD has a lot of outreach efforts to build better relationships in the community: CSI Camp, Shop with a Cop, GC3, etc. Good relationships result in more crime reporting, talking and sharing.
  • There is a verification process for crime statistics through the state and statistics are officially released by the state later in the year. However, preliminary information indicates major crimes have decreased by about 1 percent in 2017 compared to 2016.